May 13, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:42 PM


Federal judge mulls contempt charge against Michael Flynn (JOSH GERSTEIN and KYLE CHENEY, 05/13/2020, Politico)

Sullivan said he's also asking the retired judge, John Gleeson, to recommend whether Flynn should face a criminal contempt charge for perjury--apparently for declaring under oath at two different court proceedings that he was guilty of lying to the FBI, before he reversed course an January and claimed he had never lied.


There's probably a very good reason why the original unmasking doesn't show up on this list, which reflects only NSA products and only finished intelligence reports. According to Jim Comey's testimony, the FBI found the Kislyak-Flynn calls, not the NSA.

And so the last couple days of December and the first couple days of January, all the Intelligence Community was trying to figure out, so what is going on here? Why is this -- why have the Russians reacted the way they did, which confused us? And so we were all tasked to find out, do you have anything [redacted] that might reflect on this? That turned up these calls at the end of December, beginning of January. And then I briefed it to the Director of National Intelligence, and Director Clapper asked me for copies [redacted], which I shared with him.

That's consistent with Mary McCord's testimony, which made it clear no one had to refer this transcript to the FBI, because it was the FBI's.

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 PM


The Strange Origins Of Trump's Hydroxychloroquine Obsession: How a "philosopher" who tweets anti-Semitism, two bitcoin bros and right-wing media helped put an idea in the president's head ( Nick Robins-Early, 5/13/20, HuffPo)

President Donald Trump's obsession with the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus may have started in part because of a self-described philosopher in China who is a fan of white nationalists, tweets anti-Semitic rhetoric and calls chloroquine "a Nazi drug that is here to teach a lesson to leftists about bias." 

Weeks before Trump first promoted the drug, a Twitter conversation about hydroxychloroquine between "philosopher" Adrian Bye and two cryptocurrency investors set off a chain of events that would bring the unproven drug to the attention of Elon Musk, Fox News pundits and Trump. 

Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine as potentially "one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine" and repeatedly promoted its use on the coronavirus. He has asked about it both in public and privately, until recently mentioning it on a nearly daily basis, and the Trump administration has allegedly pressured health officials to distribute it despite their concerns about its safety. The drug's bizarre path to Trump's embrace highlights a dangerous information pipeline from questionable sources in right-wing media to the president.

On March 11, cryptocurrency investors Gregory Rigano and James Todaro mused about coronavirus treatments and potential death tolls on Twitter to their then-small number of followers. Bye, who says he has been living in the Wudang Mountains in central China for the past few years and formerly interviewed tech "thought leaders" for his startup, responded to one of Todaro's tweets about the virus. 

"Chloroquine will keep most people out of hospital. The US hasn't learned about that yet," Bye replied to Todaro. [...]
Bye, Rigano and Todaro are questionable sources for medical advice on coronavirus treatment and public health. Neither Bye nor Rigano is a doctor ― Bye has openly stated he's not qualified to talk about medicine  ― and Todaro is a medical school graduate who became a tech entrepreneur. 

In addition to his lack of medical expertise, Bye also appears to repeatedly engage with bigoted ideology and far-right extremists. Bye has repeatedly tweeted anti-Semitic ramblings, has replied to white nationalists such as Richard Spencer and once tweeted a link to an Australian website that has promoted Holocaust denial. In one thread, he complained about Jews taking over "major power centers" and speculated about "Jewish verbal IQ" while asking if another user had "even read Mein Kampf?" He has stated "my hobby is researching Jews. It is very enjoyable."

It's the Trumpbot wheelhouse.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 PM


Someone at the CDC Leaked Another Pandemic Plan the White House Doesn't Want You to See (Paul Blest, May 13 2020, Vice)

The White House is dealing with a second major leak from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in less than a week, which again shows the agency offering more detailed and restrictive guidance on reopening the country.

Last month, the CDC developed a 63-page guide called the "Guidance for Opening Up America Again Framework" for stopping the spread of the coronavirus. The plan offers more details than both the previously leaked CDC guide, and the plan released by the White House in April, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

The guide was leaked by an anonymous source, who the AP said was "not authorized to share the document with the press."

But the second leak reflects growing dissent inside the agency on how the federal government is handling the pandemic. CDC officials were reportedly "uncomfortable" tying their guidance on mitigation to reopening the country and voiced their objections to the White House, according to the AP.

Samantha Power must have leaked it...

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


Court in Devin Nunes Libel Lawsuit: "The Tedious and Laborious Exercise ...  (EUGENE VOLOKH, 5/13/20, THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY)

From Judge C.J. Williams' decision yesterday in NuStar Farms, LLC v. Lizza (N.D. Iowa): [...]

The tedious and laborious exercise of dissecting each of the sixteen bullet points illustrates the deficiency of plaintiffs' complaint. The complaint is not at all clear as to which facts asserted in these bullet points plaintiffs allege are actually false. Knowing which assertions plaintiffs allege are false is necessary for defendants to be able to answer the complaint and assert a defense. As the Court pointed out as it addressed each bullet point, some of the alleged facts may be defended as opinions or conclusions, others may be defended as not concerning plaintiffs, and still others may be defended as being true. Without knowing which of the facts plaintiffs allege are actually false, defendants are left not knowing how to answer the complaint.

The exercise also shows that the complaint fails to allege facts which, if proven, would show that any of the alleged facts are false. In short, the Court finds this is one of the rare instances when a more definite statement is required under Rule 12(e). Although defendants have urged the Court to dismiss the complaint outright under Rule 12(b)(6), to do so here would require the Court to guess as to what exactly plaintiffs are claiming are the false statements. Even if the Court granted such a motion at this stage, it would be a dismissal without prejudice allowing plaintiffs leave to file an amended complaint to allege facts that would state a claim. Without knowing precisely what plaintiffs are claiming, the Court cannot say that plaintiffs are incapable of alleging facts which, if proven, would state a defamation claim against defendants.

The Court fully understands that in determining whether a publication is defamatory, the Court must view the publication as a whole. The Court also understands that plaintiffs are proceeding at least in part on a theory of implied defamation by juxtaposition.  Yet, for defendants to be able to answer the complaint, or for this Court   to analyze whether the complaint is subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) because it fails to state a claim, it is first necessary that the complaint itself be intelligible.

Posted by orrinj at 1:20 PM


Why the Flynn Interview Was Predicated (Barbara McQuade, May 13, 2020, lawfare)

The Justice Department's motion to dismiss the case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is flawed in many ways, but one of its weakest arguments is that the investigation of Flynn was not properly "predicated." This argument not only lacks merit--it also opens the door to the same frivolous argument from future defendants in other criminal cases. And it creates a dangerous incentive that could dissuade the FBI from fulfilling its duty to fully investigate criminal and national security threats. [...]

According to the Justice Department inspector general, the Flynn investigation was properly predicated as a full investigation. In his report on the FBI's conduct in the Russia investigation, the inspector general stated, "[T]he quantum of information articulated by the FBI to open these individual investigations [that is, the investigations into Flynn as well as Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort] was sufficient to satisfy the low threshold established by Department and FBI predication policy, particularly in the context of the FBI's separate and ongoing investigative efforts to address Russian interference in 2016 U.S. elections."

Key to the Justice Department's argument in its motion to dismiss is the fact that, after four months of investigation without finding any derogatory information, the FBI was prepared to close its case on Flynn. A draft internal FBI document dated Jan. 4, 2017, shows that the bureau had sketched out a memo closing the probe, though the document includes the usual caveat that if new information were identified, the FBI would consider reopening the investigation.

But before the case was actually closed, the FBI learned that Flynn had spoken to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late December 2016. According to the Justice Department's motion, the FBI had transcripts of the relevant calls, likely obtained through surveillance of Kislyak authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. By this time, Flynn had been named as Trump's national security adviser.

In those calls, Flynn had asked Russia not to retaliate for sanctions imposed by the Obama administration as punishment for election interference. Flynn had also asked Russia to vote against a United Nations resolution regarding Israeli settlements. On their face, these calls potentially undermined the foreign policy of the United States. What's more, on Jan. 15, 2017, Mike Pence, then the vice president-elect, made public statements that contradicted the transcripts of Flynn's calls-- a fact that, as documented in the Mueller report, "alarmed senior DOJ [Department of Justice] officials." And so, the FBI decided to keep the investigation open. FBI agents interviewed Flynn on Jan. 24, four days after Trump took office. During that interview, Flynn falsely denied his statements regarding sanctions and the U.N. vote. He later pleaded guilty to one count of false statements for telling these lies.

The Justice Department now insists that the Kislyak call did not establish adequate predication for the FBI to conduct this interview. But there was no need for new predication for the interview--because predication had already been established. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


It feels like 2008 all over againThe odds of a big blue wave sweeping Democrats to power are growing, with even red-state Republicans growing nervous about their political position. (Josh Kraushaar, May 12, 2020, Hotline)

Republicans are growing increasingly worried that President Trump's shaky political position will not just cost them the presidency, but also sweep in a Democratic Senate majority and further diminish their House minority. The latest round of polling shows the president losing to Joe Biden, as well as Democrats gaining ground in red-state Senate seats that once looked like long shots, from Georgia to Montana to Kansas. There's a growing chance that Democrats may capture control of the Senate with a seat or two to spare.

The current political environment is reminiscent of 2008, two years after Democrats swept control of the House and Senate under President George W. Bush. It's mostly remembered for Barack Obama's historic election, but the Democrats' downballot dominance was just as remarkable. Riding deep dissatisfaction with GOP leadership, Democrats expanded their Senate majority to a near filibuster-proof margin and won House seats in some of the most reliably conservative territory in the country.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New York City breaks record: 58 straight days with no pedestrian deaths (Jon Haworth, May 13, 2020, ABC News)

New York City Department of Transportation Polly Trottenberg revealed in testimony before the City Council Transportation Committee on Tuesday that it has now been 58 consecutive days since a pedestrian has been fatally struck and killed in the city.

This marks the longest stretch since the city began tracking pedestrian fatalities in 1983, according to ABC News' New York City station WABC.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

PANIC IN BAGEL PARK (self-reference alert):

Americans Have Baked All the Flour AwayThe pandemic is reintroducing the nation to its kitchens. (AMANDA MULL, MAY 12, 2020, The Atlantic)

Over the past few months, the best place to trace America's deepening pandemic anxieties has been the shelves of grocery and big-box stores. The first common household goods to disappear were disinfectants: hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, Lysol. Bottled water and toilet paper were snatched up once companies started advising workers to stay home. Next up were rice and dried pasta, followed by video-game consoles, microphones used to record podcasts, and at-home pedicure supplies.

Amid these disappearances, one of the most persistent has been that of an extremely common, shelf-stable product that has no obvious link to cleanliness or quarantine at all: flour. At first, flour hung around on shelves while people bought up dried beans and canned tomatoes. Then, several weeks ago, while America watched as unsold vegetables were plowed back into the soil and fretted over the earliest outbreaks among midwestern meatpackers, one flour company quietly saw its sales skyrocket 2,000 percent. Flour was nowhere to be found in stores, and it soon disappeared from the internet. Quickly, evidence that a person had bought and used flour became proof of her irredeemable profligacy to people who love to get mad online, who grew frustrated by the baking projects of those who had found flour when they hadn't. Home bakers were accused of flour privilege. Never had emotions run so high about milled wheat.

For most other products vaporized by pandemic demand, supplies are bouncing back. Manufacturers are catching up, or the spike is subsiding. But scooping up a bag of flour still often depends on dumb luck, even as packaged bread and other flour-based processed foods remain abundant. It doesn't take much detective work to figure out where it's all going: Facebook has been flooded with photos of homemade focaccias, pancakes, and banana breads. On Twitter, people are on their third or fourth wave of backlash to sourdough as a concept. Americans are baking a ton, and the nation's flour supply has fallen victim to our newfound hobby.

The story of the missing flour seems to be different from reports of hoarding, black markets, or panic buying that have caused other persistent shortages during the pandemic. Faced with the quick collapse of the country's robust convenience economy, which has adapted to feeding people millions of sandwich-bread slices, burger buns, croissants, and pizza crusts every day, Americans have been forced to confront a fundamental bargain that the food system had made on their behalf: The broad availability of prepared and processed foods means that a lot of people have no idea what they're doing in the kitchen. Now millions of people are hurtling backward into an existence where frequent breadmaking feels like an elemental part of American life.

For flour manufacturers, the deluge has come in two separate waves. In mid-March, flour shelves thinned out, but mostly didn't empty, as people were stocking up on all kinds of staples they'd need to stay home for a few weeks of regular cooking. "It was very similar to what you'd see during a hurricane, except it was happening all over the United States," says Brent Minner, a marketing director for Hometown Food Company, which owns the White Lily, Pillsbury, Arrowhead Mills, and Martha White brands of flour. The real flour rush began in late March, as it became clear that states' initial stay-at-home orders would likely be extended. Minner says market-wide demand shot up more than 160 percent, with no signs of abating: "We are making the flour as fast as we possibly can and shipping it to our customers, and it's flying off the shelves as soon as it gets there."

I sometimes feel like Superfly, with folks asking me if I can hook them up with some of the white stuff.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How Coronavirus Proved the Value of Migrant Workers to Canada (Bethany Hastie, 5/11/20, National Interest)

In the current pandemic, the essential nature of the work done by temporary migrants has been brought into sharp focus. Concerns about how current border closures and travel restrictions would impact the migrant workforce in the agriculture industry were raised by farmers across the country.

They feared the collapse of their crop, their business and their own livelihood if migrant workers were not permitted to come to Canada this season. Currently, temporary workers are being allowed to continue travelling to Canada but there have been delays.

For some products, such as honey, the specialized skills and knowledge of migrant workers was further highlighted as essential, given the length of time that would be required to train a new workforce in that industry.

Now that migrant workers have been spotlighted, as well as the true value of the work they do in Canada and for Canadians, it's time Canada dramatically improved their working conditions, their pay, their legal rights and their opportunity to immigrate to Canada.

Although migrant workers are not paid less than Canadian counterparts, one of the hallmarks of the Canadian jobs they fill is low wages. This is especially so in industries that are predominantly made up of migrant workers, like agriculture and in-home caregiving. [...]

As the current pandemic has demonstrated, migrant workers in low-wage occupations are just as vital to the Canadian economy as skilled workers, and should similarly be given the opportunity to permanently immigrate.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump is getting trounced among a crucial constituency: The haters (DAVID SIDERS, 05/12/2020, Politico)

Of the nearly 20 percent of voters who disliked both Clinton and Trump in 2016, Trump outperformed Clinton by about 17 percentage points, according to exit polls.

Four years later, that same group -- including a mix of Bernie Sanders supporters, other Democrats, disaffected Republicans and independents -- strongly prefers Biden, the polling shows. The former vice president leads Trump by more than 40 percentage points among that group, which accounts for nearly a quarter of registered voters, according to a Monmouth University poll last week.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



A Republican state representative has rejected racism allegations after sharing a meme he created showing a group of black children along with the caption: "We gon' get free money!"

Jim Lucas, a GOP member of the Indiana House of Representatives, was criticized after sharing the image on his Facebook page, which came as Democrats prepared to propose a further coronavirus aid package.

The lawmaker has previously courted controversy with his actions on social media, having last year commented a picture of gallows underneath a news story about a black man who had pleaded guilty to rape.

No one hates just Mexicans.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



A large majority of Americans have seen either no change to their household income or an improvement to it since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, according to a new survey commissioned by

The poll, conducted by YouGov, found that 58 percent of adult Americans had no change to their income since the crisis started and a further 12 percent reported an increase, even as the economy has crashed into what looks like a deep recession.

Add in the deflation and one starts to feel guilty, even before considering time to spend with family, work on projects, etc. Hasten the robot overlord takeover.